Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Orlando Magic -- and Michael Jordan

There’s a new ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about the Magic of the mid-1990's, and it is very entertaining.  Somehow along the way, I had completely forgotten that Penny Hardaway was a really great player – I just had a vague sense that Shaq did everything for that team, and that Penny was just a product of the Nike hype machine.  I was wrong, and I apologize to Penny Hardaway.

But in some ways, Michael Jordan is the best part of this documentary, even though he only appears for about five minutes.  You forget how good he was, but then you see a story like this:

Year by year, the Magic were getting better with Shaq.  They won 41 games in 1993, and then 50 in 1994, and then 57 in 1995, when they beat Jordan and went all the way to the finals.  But the next year, they were even better – they went 60-22.  Here was their starting lineup:

Anfernee Hardaway (PG)
Dennis Scott (SG)
Nick Anderson (SF)
Horace Grant (PF)
Shaquille O’Neal (C)

That’s a really good team.  They went 7-1 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and then went off to play MJ and the Bulls for the Eastern Conference title.  Here’s what happened:

Game 1:  Chicago 121, Orlando 83
Game 2:  Chicago 93, Orlando 88
Game 3:  Chicago 86, Orlando 67
Game 4:  Chicago 106, Orlando 101

So long, thanks for playing.  That was the end of the Magic.  They messed up their negotiations with Shaq, and he left for L.A.  A few years later, Penny hurt his knee and was never the same.  Meanwhile, the Bulls won two more titles in 1997 and 1998.

Jordan was just on a different level than everyone else, and it annoys me that people compare him to Kobe or LeBron.  He should have played full seasons in 1994 and 1995, and then the Bulls would have won eight titles in a row.  That figure would truly capture his greatness.

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